First time Europe. Looking for insight.

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
jnelly":1wvysn1t said:
What is everyone's sentiments or real-world experience with either taking or renting skis.
To me, it's similar to whether you bring your own or rent skis on destination trips in North America. If you're renting a car, you might as well. The only time I ever rented skis in the Alps was the Ischgl week mentioned above because I took public transportation inside Europe (trains and buses) instead of renting a car, and continued on to Brussels for a business visit, so schlepping a heavy ski bag through additional train stations, airports, streetcars, and hotels would've been no fun. Renting skis was fine; they have it down to a science there because so many people (especially casual skiers) do it, but I like to have my own planks.

I fly nonstop to GVA and ZRH so there's no worry about my checked-in baggage not making a connecting flight; however, when I've changed planes to smaller airports (Salzburg, Nice, Innsbruck), everything transferred through fine/even with very short layover times. Tony on the other hand has had numerous bad experiences with delayed equipment.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I think James has the first principle right: If you're renting a car, you should bring your own skis. The main reason you have the car is flexibility; you don't want to be dealing with the hassle of rentals at someplace you drop in for a day or two. And the rental situation at James' under-the-radar places might not be as extensive/convenient as at large resorts.

If you are on the one week package plan at a single large resort, there is a stronger case for rentals, especially if you would be paying baggage fees to the airlines.

The above considerations apply in both North America and the Alps.

The other consideration is a "mixed" trip that involves both skiing and other tourism. We will be storing ski gear at Venice airport while we go on a 10-day Balkans tour in late April next year. But with 3+ weeks of skiing in front of that, there's no question we want our skis on that trip.

Southern Hemisphere trips for me have always been "mixed." In Australia/New Zealand rental equipment is good and the nuisance of dragging ski bags through tropical Australia or Fiji/Tahiti is large. So I say rent in those places. Unfortunately the quality of rentals in South America is variable (like just about everything down there), so you have to suck it up and arrange storage as we did in Peru in 2007 before skiing in Chile. My first Las Lenas trip in 2005 was seriously compromised by rental skis.

In Japan I've read there can be issues in sizing of skis, especially if you are an above average western male. I suspect in well westernized Niseko that might not be a big issue anymore. What it really boils down to in Japan is whether you own powder skis. If so, you should definitely bring them, which I did on both trips. In 2011 I left them in a Tokyo hotel while I was scuba diving a week in Palau.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
With Tony's added info, renting skis is the smart move for any of these scenarios:
a) staying an entire week at a large interconnected resort or region with convenient public transport included in the lift pass
b) traveling from the airport to your hotel in a train/bus rather than a rental car
c) planning to do something else on your trip in addition to skiing

Tony Crocker":2f680ms1 said:
there is a stronger case for rentals, especially if you would be paying baggage fees to the airlines.
Doesn't every passenger on an overseas flight, even without frequent-flyer status, get a free checked-in bag (thus a ski bag + boot bag)?
 

jnelly

New member
jamesdeluxe":269acx3j said:
With Tony's added info, renting skis is the smart move for any of these scenarios:
a) staying an entire week at a large interconnected resort or region with convenient public transport included in the lift pass
b) traveling from the airport to your hotel in a train/bus rather than a rental car
c) planning to do something else on your trip in addition to skiing

Perfect. Good.
 

jnelly

New member
jamesdeluxe":1vbokuxg said:
Doesn't every passenger, even without frequent-flyer status, get a free checked-in bag on international flights (thus a ski bag + boot bag)?

I just called United about this the other day and they said 70$, although I've not been completely trusting on information from such places as of late. Swiss Air does appear to allow the 1 free as you state. (I havent verified it) The comedy being it said "Swiss Air, Operated by United" Go figure the airlines would have convoluted terms and conditions.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
JNelly, you mentioned a while back that you're leaning toward using GVA as your arrival airport. I assume that you'll be flying out of ORD, from which the only nonstop flight is to ZRH. Something to consider with your location in Wisconsin requiring additional travel time.
 

jnelly

New member
jamesdeluxe":1t5jys55 said:
I assume that you'll be flying out of ORD, from which the only nonstop flight is to ZRH. Something to consider with your location in Wisconsin requiring additional travel time.

I've definitely taken that into consideration. At the same time I'm not necessarily opposed to a stop...I'm in Madison so it comes with the territory usually no matter where you go... the usual debate ensures when you live here: 2 hrs drive-park-deal with everything ORD to get a non-stop or pay 100$ more to leave from Madison, 5 mins from my house, and usually be the only person in TSA pre-check. Now that I said it its almost a no-brainer; and makes me feel extra stupid for not grabbing a MSN-ZHR (via ORD) two weeks ago for 460$. That is most likely ancient history going forward.
 

jimk

Member
Great input to this thread.
I have very little experience visiting/skiing the Alps, but what I have was really fun. I second the recommendation to check out Where to Ski and Snowboard. It can be found in some public libraries in the US. I have visited the Alps several times, but only once for skiing, it was back in 2003 and I went to Salzburg/Ski Amade region and skied at five different ski areas, all excellent. It was a week in early Feb that included the US holiday of President's Day. The crowds weren't bad, the snow was good, the food/drink/culture was great, and the scenery was outstanding.
Zauchensee, AU:
1596588701_vogfmjbwc.jpg


Here's an old two part trip report:
https://www.dcski.com/articles/446" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
jimk":2r3k6nsp said:
I have visited the Alps several times, but only once for skiing, it was back in 2003
Interesting coincidence: I made my inaugural visit to the Alps for skiing in March 2003. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and chose the Kitzbühel Alps (Saalbach, Skiwelt, Kitzbühel, Alpbach) purely because the U.S.-based tour operator Ski-Europe (just checked, it's still around) was offering a good end-of-season deal that included airfare and a rental car. We got lucky and experienced decent conditions at that time of year for a low-elevation region.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
jamesdeluxe":2iy5fs62 said:
Doesn't every passenger on an overseas flight, even without frequent-flyer status, get a free checked-in bag (thus a ski bag + boot bag)?
What happened to the sage advice (which I learned the hard way in 2008) to ALWAYS bring your boots as carry-on?

With the 23 kilo/50lb weight limits, are you really getting away with only one checked bag if you are bringing skis?

And finally, IIRC James was giving a heads-up not long ago about some Euro airlines gouging for ski bag transport.

Bottom line, I think frequent flyer status is quite important if you're going to make a habit of skiing in the Alps from North America, and I'm sure James would agree.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
Tony Crocker":36npm2hg said:
IIRC James was giving a heads-up not long ago about some Euro airlines gouging for ski bag transport.
I stand corrected; I'd completely blocked out my 2019 experience, when I booked a United FF award to Salzburg on partner airlines Lufthansa eastbound and Austrian Airlines westbound, and both of them demanded that I pay baggage fees because they weren't United. I reminded them that they were code-share flights; therefore, I should get my United free baggage allowance. The Nurse Diesel customer service rep in Salzburg really put up a fight but finally gave in with the memorable rejoinder "I'm only doing this because I'm impressed with your command of German curse words."


Tony Crocker":36npm2hg said:
With the 23 kilo/50lb weight limits, are you really getting away with only one checked bag if you are bringing skis?
For a one-week stay, between my large ski bag and the accompanying boot bag, that's enough space for everything I need.


Tony Crocker":36npm2hg said:
What happened to the sage advice (which I learned the hard way in 2008) to ALWAYS bring your boots as carry-on?
I stopped doing that years ago because I've never had your bad experiences. Even the comparatively rare times when I change planes inside the U.S. or Europe, like to Spokane last season in the pic below, my luggage always arrives with me:

20210227_132034-jpg.8443



Tony Crocker":36npm2hg said:
Bottom line, I think frequent flyer status is quite important if you're going to make a habit of skiing in the Alps from North America, and I'm sure James would agree.
Without question both domestically and internationally, especially at your elevated Delta status. Without it, you're looking at an additional $70 to 120 roundtrip depending on the carrier. I'm shocked that Southwest continues to allow two free checked bags given what a cash cow it is for airlines.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Is there only one pair of skis in that ski bag? I nearly always bring two, which limits the extra weight you can throw in there. For me that generally means a pair of Sorel boots and/or an empty backpack.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
Tony Crocker":3k6cy0bd said:
Is there only one pair of skis in that ski bag?
Yes, one pair of skis for that March trip to northern ID, which had zero new snow. I'd guestimate that I bring two pairs of skis only on a third of my destination visits -- when the seven-day forecast or current conditions warrant fatter skis. I understand that your Alps trips are always at least two weeks so it makes more sense to bring two pairs as standard operating procedure.

Tony Crocker":3k6cy0bd said:
which limits the extra weight you can throw in there.
My purely anecdotal experience -- I've never gotten busted for exceeding the 50-pound limit between the ski and boot bags, even when I've gone considerably over by bringing a second set of skis. Both in the U.S. and Europe, the customer service reps never bothered to add the weight of the two pieces.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
Vorarlberg, Austria
The last circuit I have to post is from late January/early February 2015, following trips to Ischgl, Austria in 2013 and the Portes du Soleil, France in 2014. This was the first of my road trips dedicated to visiting lesser-known ski areas and/or regions in the Alps. Since I'd already skied twice in Lech/St. Anton, I was interested in the region just to the west, Vorarlberg, on the western edge of Austria, which is bordered by Germany, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. At only 90 minutes from Zurich airport, it's easy to reach, not overly commercialised, has cute villages, excellent food, and friendly people. Here's the overview article and following are the daily trip reports.

My first three days were in the Bregenzerwald (Bregenz Forest), considered to be the snowiest region in the Alps with 15 ski areas, many of them comparatively small. These are the three biggest ones:
Day 1: Diedamskopf
Day 2: Warth-Schröcken
Day 3: Damüls

Next was a surprisingly interesting ski area near the medieval mountain town of Bludenz:
Day 4: Brandnertal

The last three days were in the Montafon sub-region, where Ernest Hemingway set his infamous short story "An Alpine Idyll."
Day 5: Silvretta-Montafon
Day 6: Gargellen/Madrisa Tour
Day 7: Golm
 

jnelly

New member
This post keeps drawing my mind back to this area..
Progress Report: Booked GVA for Jan28-Feb7. Choose it at the time over ZRH due to the stated 7 hours layover on the way home...of course the day after I booked for Geneva the Zurich return changed to only a 2 hr layover.
jamesdeluxe":b7pc31ey said:
Vorarlberg, Austria
Zurich is still super enticing because this itinerary as a stand alone not to mention all the other ones listed. Honestly, its really hard to pick. The paradox of choice has always been an achilles heel for me. That said, the crazy in me still might book a Zurich tic, then I have all ends covered and I cancel one at some point and the $ goes back to credits for another day. We'll see....
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Don't sweat the gateway airport that much. In both 2018 and 2019 we flew to Geneva. Within 2 days we had driven to the Dolomites in 2018 and St. Moritz in 2019.
 

jnelly

New member
Tony Crocker said:
Don't sweat the gateway airport that much

Good point Tony. Less factors to muddle ones plan is great advice. Ill add this is my first time to EU and I'm as excited to just experience it as I am to ski it. Some of this is re-programming how one plans and ranks priorities and expectations after only skiing in NA. Here my mind is snow, snow, snow, no crowds, snow. With The Alps, I'm finding that there's definitely truth to practically everything you read about the ski culture in EU; more of an all encompassing thing with the food, views and local culture. I guess to your point, "will travel for snow" is fine by me should you need to or want to. My camera always rides shotgun!
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
I'm booked on two trips across the pond this season. Of course, the fun is always seeing how the actual visit pans out compared to what you planned.

Central Pyrenees: Jan 28 to Feb 6
• 45,000 FF miles: AA to LHR, then British Airways to Toulouse. A long layover on the outbound flight so delayed luggage won't be an issue.
• Skiing at Luz Ardiden, Grand Tourmalet, St. Lary, Piau Engaly, and Peyragudes in France along with Baqueira and Boí Taüll in Spain.

Southern Alps: March 5 to 13
• 48,000 FF miles: AA outbound to Milan, United on the return. Torino/Turin would be a more convenient gateway airport; however, that requires changing planes and the connections weren't the best.
• Skiing at Bardonecchia along the Italian border on arrival day followed by Serre Chevalier, the Forêt Blanche (Vars/Risoul), Puy Saint Vincent, and a handful of obscure/old-school ski areas in the Queyras region.
 
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